corporate.fitnessTwenty years ago, clocks and walls use to tell us where work ended and the other parts of life began.  But as technology exploded in a “do more, with less” economy, the clocks and walls disappeared.

To be our best, on and off the job, we need to learn how take the initiative and manage the way work fits into our lives, day to day and at major life transitions.  It’s the new modern skill set we need to succeed. Here are five tips to get you started!

Tip 1:  Your goal is work+life “fit,” not “balance.”  Balance infers that the goal is a 50-50 split between your responsibilities on and off the job.  Because that happens rarely, if ever, we always focus on what we don’t have instead of seeing what we could have.  Work+life “fit,” on the other hand, is about the possibilities based your unique personal and professional circumstances, on a given day, week, month or year.

Tip 2: Learn to manage your everyday work+life fit, one small “tweak” at a time.   Unfortunately, no one is going to tap you on the shoulder and say, “hey, why don’t you finish that project and then head to the gym.”  We have to make those micro-tradeoffs about which priorities we are going to take care of and when every day.  But how do we do it?

A few years ago, I began to study a group of people I call the work+life fit naturals.  While almost everyone else in their workplace struggled to get everything done, the naturals seemed to make it all happen without breaking a sweat.  How did they do it?  I translated their secrets into the simple weekly practice found in my new book, TWEAK IT: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day.  It harnesses the power of small, deliberate actions and priorities to make what matters at work and in your personal life.

Tip 3: When you experience a major life transition, learn to create a plan that flexibly resets your work+life fit. Start the conversation with your manager by presenting a clear plan that specifies the:

  • Type of flexibility you are proposing to reset your work+life fit (eg. a shift in hours, teleworking, etc.)
  • How the work will get done (not “why” you want flexibility—it doesn’t matter)
  • How the business will benefit from your plan, and
  • When the plan will be reviewing (e.g. initially 90 days; annually thereafter)

(For a step-by-step guide to create a win-win formal flexibility plan that is guaranteed to get a fair hearing, check out my book: “Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You”)

Tip 4: As you flexibly tweak and reset your work+life fit, it’s your job to (over) communicate with your boss, your team, and your clients.  When you are out-of-sight because either you work from home or work flexible, non-traditional hours, be mindful of consistent accessibility and reliability:

  • If you aren’t immediately reachable, make it a priority to check messages regularly and respond in a timely manner.
  • Initiated a “check in” by email, IM or phone once or twice during the day with your team or your manager to see if there is anything you need to be aware of.  Most likely there won’t be, but they will appreciate the extra effort.
  • Each week, put together one-page of highlights of accomplishments.  In today’s economy, we should all have a record of what we’ve done…not just flex workers!  It comes in handy when negotiating for a raise or promotion.

Tip 5:  Be flexible with your flexibility, as you manage your work+life fit.

Nothing causes a manager or a coworker to lose patience with your work+life fit faster than a consistent unwillingness to periodically “go the extra mile.”   If there’s an unexpected deadline and it’s your time to leave, offer to stay now and then.  If you’re scheduled to work from home, offer to come into the office if it’s the only day a client can meet.

Taking the initiative, being conscientious and going the extra mile, from time to time, are small actions that go a long way to making your work+life fit succeed for everyone.

For more, check out Cali Yost’s award-winning Work+Life Fit blog or connect with her on Facebook.

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